Sure, the salmon fly gets the press. It’s the biggest! It must be the best! Well, no question it’s good, but when it comes to consistently strong fly fishing in Missoula to stoneflies, the Golden Stone takes the prize hands down.
The Golden Stones begin emerging about mid June, just as the Missoula area rivers are rounding into shape. And they consistently move fish til late July! From late July on, especially on the Clark Fork River, the goldens will hatch with enough consistency that an imitation will take fish all the way into September and is one of our guides go to hatches to imitate all summer long.
The term Golden Stone is a bit of a misnomer. Taxonomically, what we call a Golden Stone are actually a multitude of different species. Why don’t we identify the species? Because it doesn’t matter! All species are imitated by the same flies. When you think about it, we fish Golden Stones from size 6-12. What other insect species has a size range from 1.7 inches to 1 inch. None. When you catch a golden, some are bright yellow, some are a dull yellow, and some lean more to brown. They’re all different species, but luckily for us, the same flies work. If you’re an amateur entomologist, this could be of wild interest, but most of us just amble on, blissfully unaware of how complicated we could make this!
The Yellow Sallies are also stoneflies, they’ve just been given a different name amongst fly fishermen! They could just as easily be called Little Goldens, but we don’t do it that way. Yet they’re stoneflies as well, and they behave as every other stonefly does on the water.
The nymphs will enter the shallow water starting in early June, preparing to emerge onto the shore. This is called staging. Excellent flies for shallow nymphing are a Double Bead Hare’s Ear or a Tan/Brown Rubberlegs. Once they’ve crawled out and shed their nymphal shuck, the adults fly to shoreline vegetation, mate, and the females return to the water to lay their eggs. Unlike mayflies and caddis, which hatch from the water, a stonefly hatch consists of the females returning to the water. Goldens like warmer weather for flying, which explains why the best golden fishing is often late morning through late afternoon in Montana. For an egg laying Golden, we like a yellow Stimulator or a ??????????. Quite often, the female will get trapped in the surface film, which makes a much more appetizing target to the trout. Strong imitations of a flush floating Golden are the El Camino Grillos, PK Golden or the Plan B Golden. If you’re going dry/dropper, the Tan Chubby is a great choice for strong floatation.
It’s one of the real joys in Missoula, those last two weeks of June, fishing the double dry salmon fly with a golden stone dropper. And we think you’ll have the same experience, that the Golden outfishes the salmon fly 6 to 4. The Golden stone is an fly fishing angler’s friend. It’s consistent, so you know the fishing is there. It’s big, so you can easily see the fly! And it lasts for a long time, which is always very nice for planning your fishing. As we said, the Salmon flies may get more ink, but we think the Golden takes more fish. We’ll let you decide which one takes the prize!